Monday, 7 September 2009

Invest or die

I had a well thought out coherent argument about large newspaper organisations investing all of their profits back into newspapers in order to bolster their products and create real newspapers again.

But in the spirit of all that is great in journalism - and because I am feeling a bit lazy - I thought I would steal some thoughts instead.

The question - why are we so fucked?

The answer - advertising revenue is plummeting

Why we ask?

Cos our products are getting increasingly shit.

Why? Due to a lack of investment of course.

timaych sums it all up on the UKPG website in the comments section. Good lad/ladette. He/she writes:

Why do advertisers pay huge sums of money to appear on F1 cars, or the badges
snooker and darts players?

Why do they pay top dollar to be seen across the shirts of Manchester United
and Real Madrid?

Because they want to be associated with top 'products' themselves.

Now, grab a copy of your local paper, compare it to a copy which was written
10 years ago. Then to one produced 20 years ago.

Small firms would rather go to a community newsletter to advertise services
while larger companies know and understand more wider streams of appealing
to the public, like the internet.

So - the answer to your question, IMHO, is (a) a declining standard of
newspapers (b) a total incomprehension by most groups as to how to use the
internet (c) the vicious circle of declining sales (linked to point a),
meaning lower pagination, meaning fewer advertisers, meaning a worse product
and so we go on.

So how does one stop the rot?

Someone somewhere needs to stop worring about recouping losses for a while,
invest in editorial to make the product, both online and print, attractive to the reader, then the advertisers will start come back.

The second coming of local papers. Still - that would take foresight, vision and a long term plan from those at the top...


  1. Reading this makes me more annoyed!7 September 2009 at 21:16

    So true. Honestly it makes me want to weep. No it doesn't... it makes me want to tip over the boardroom tables of all the chiefs rolling out this rubbish. They have the power and are not listening because it's not in their personal interests/ power game to do so.
    They will never make enough money out of their crap websites and a big reason they're crap is because they are killing the major content AND revenue supplier, the newspapers.
    God and/or a stiff drink give me strength.

  2. Good article; and encouraging to know that there are some editors like you out there who actually give a damn about what's happening rather than meekly bending over for the shareholders and MD.

    However let's be honest here - in the age of Fred Goodwin's pension and soaring MP expenses, speculation in the name of accumulation looks a dead horse. And by the time the printed word follows suit and finally dies itself, the bastards who withdrew its life support will be retired on big fat fucking pensions and won't give a fisted shit.

    Just like they don't now.

  3. Keep Taking The Tablets8 September 2009 at 12:38

    I hope you find writing this blog as therapeutic as those of us reading it do. There's a great comfort in knowing We Are Not Alone.
    For some time now I've been wondering if an editor, chief sub or news ed will look at next week's diabolical page plan, completely lose it and give a smack to the first oily Efficiency Seeker they see.
    Don't let it be you.

  4. An eerie thought, Blunt. Eventually your website - this blog - will have more readers than your poor old newspapers. You might have to charge us content viewers because your paper job wil be gone.
    At least you know that chucking any old crap up on the web will not 'monetise' it and you won't have the overheads of a load of talentless bullshitters.

  5. Good article yet again.
    I think the solution will happen naturally. One or two of the big boys (probably JP first) will go bust.
    They'll either be taken over by someone happy with a 15% profit margin rather than the unrealistic 25%-30%, or some enterprising sorts will set up their own papers.

    There is still good money to be made in newspapers - but only, as you say, if they're kept to a decent standard.

  6. Hi. I have worked in newspapers for 16 years, and I wrote you a page of A4 in Word to post here, only to find out that you can't copy and paste text into the comments box.

    If you care enough to want to read that page, please send me a message on Twitter at and I'll email it to you.

    Love the blog though!!!

  7. Mike's Post

    Before I make my point may I applaud you for making me laugh out loud on a South West Train this evening, whist travelling alone and drawing looks of repulsion as a result. I will definitely be following from now on.

    I have worked in newspapers for 16 years. That includes free local newspapers, a paid for regional title, a free regional title and several national newspapers. I work in advertising though, so my viewpoint is different to yours.

    I would like to add a view from the other side of your battle lines, for what it’s worth.

    Firstly, the people that care deeply about journalistic standards are more often than not, the journalists themselves. If the general public were as hung up about the standards of prose as the people who crafted it, then The Sun would be out of business and the Daily Telegraph would be a best-seller. Not so though. The Sun still sells millions every day. It’s shit, but it sells.

    Secondly, readership of newspapers isn’t declining because of a dip in quality. People are stopping taking a newspaper because technology has delivered easier, cheaper and more convenient ways to read the same news. Most notably, the newspapers own websites either via a PC or their mobile device. The same journalism, but free and available wherever and whenever they get the chance to read it. Technology and the passing of time will see this trend continue, until national newspapers start to fall, one by one. Hopefully that won’t be in our lifetimes, but newspaper businesses that rely on the physical paper as the main-stay of their business are quite simply managing decline.

    Lastly, in the 16 years I have worked in newspapers I can count the number of editors and journalists that have been truly helpful to me on one hand. The few that afforded me the basic respect deserving of another human being working for the same business will forever have my respect, because too many have the attitude that you have shown a few times. You may well be right that advertising people are ignorant to the much of your craft, and it is a craft, but in my experience the vast majotiy of journalists are equally ignorant to the pressure and complexity of negotiation that can go into making one of those eyesores ruin one of your beautiful pages, trust me on that.

    The advertising market is fucked, as far as newspapers are concerned. There are a million ways for advertisers to reach their target market, with new ways coming to market every day in this exciting new media landscape and it may or may not come as a surprise for you to hear that your publication is a tiny, tiny speck on that media landscape. The speck is becoming evern smaller, as readers embrace technology and move online and on mobile.

    You work hard, I know that, but we advertising people work fucking hard too to bring in a respectable percentage of an ever decreasing advertising pool, and as you said yourself, without that cash we would all be unemployed. Those management wankers that you seem to despise are charged with the business making money, because that is what businesses do. Yet the fractious line drawn between editorial and advertising is still holding newspaper back. We’re on the same side for fucks sake, and the sooner all parties realise that the sooner we’ll all stop losing colleagues to the chop, and having fewer people to chat to at the Christmas party.

    I think that if every journalist was forced to work in the advertising department for 3 months before taking up their duties, and every advertising sales person was to do the same stint in editorial, then mutual respect and understanding would be improved in leaps and bounds. sounds unworkable, but the experience would benefit both hugely.

    Keep up the good work though, I look forward to making a tit of myself in public, while laughing out loud at another one of your posts very soon.

  8. Why don't reporters give a fuck for advertising?

    Well its like this:
    Most reporters are university educated, whereas most ad reps qualifications are no more complex than a winning smile, tight buns, or good tits and teeth. (how many fat and ugly ad reps do you see?)
    Yet the freshly started ad rep's basic salary before bonus is more than the most a junior reporter gets for the first two years or more they stay as junior (doing inteminably long courses that employers drag out so they don't have to give pay rises.)
    The ad rep gets a nice new car.
    The reporter, if they are lucky and give six weeks notice, can get that ancient Fiesta (that the ad reps gave up three years ago) for an afternoon.
    "But the ad rep has to go out", you might say. Well so do reporters. Usually after hours and at weekends, which is more than the ad rep does.
    So we hack around in a selection of old bangers we can't afford to run and look enviously at your shiny new 307.
    Of course we're going to hate you.
    The ad rep gets bonuses and special gifts for selling advertising space.
    Excuse me? thats your damn JOB.
    The reporter doesn't get a bonus for not leaving white spaces on pages.
    The most a reporter gets as a bonus is a packet of biscuits, or the stale prawn vol-a-vents left over after the last "advertising sales conference"
    Newspaper advertising bosses constantly like to remind editorial that its them that make the money.
    Oh yeah? Well our newspaper still turns a profit even though ad sales have been in free fall for two years. How can this be? surely its not people buying the newspaper that makes it profitable after all?
    And ultimately theres nobody at the top of the newspaper business who is from editorial. You'd be hard pushed to find anyone at CEO level who started out in editorial.
    Ad reps, the lot of them. And the industry is going down the toilet.
    Hmm. cause and effect anyone?
    Don't get me wrong. This is just generalised loathing.
    As people, we quite like ad reps, (some of them are quite shaggable, after all. Unlike us social outcasts in editorial - thats why we all marry journalists. No one else will have us.)
    We do know we are on the same side - fighting idiot management, mostly.
    I'd agree we should swap jobs - or at least share days - you take me out on your daily round, and I swear I'll pick up enough stories to fill that weeks paper.
    Admittedly, you sitting next to me through the planning and development committee of Little Snodbury Parish Council may not benefit you quite so much.
    Can we split our salaries 50/50 on those days?

    All the best (and I do mean that)